Collection Highlight: Brignano Collection

By Marty Goldberg, head librarian, Penn State Beaver
The Beaver Campus Library is proud to house an interesting and useful resource of more than 600 African-American autobiographies, dedicated in honor of Dr. Russell C. Brignano, professor emeritus of English. Brignano, who is now retired, was the prime force behind the establishment of this collection. In 1997, a ceremony was held in the Beaver Campus Library in honor of the dedication of this collection. Begun in 1990 with $5,000 from the Penn State Equal Opportunity Planning Committee, it has been supported through University Libraries monographic funds as well as gifts from library donors. Brignano, a recognized scholar of African-American autobiography, helped to develop the collection and donated many of his own books. The collection is designed to enhance awareness of the importance of African-American autobiographical literature and allows the campus to offer courses designed to explore the African-American contributions to literature, the arts and society.

Brignano was a member of the English Department at Penn State from 1975 to 1996 and achieved his doctorate in English from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Brignano taught composition and rhetoric, American and African-American literature and humanities. He also has pursued scholarly research into baseball literature, a personal passion. The author of numerous articles, bibliographies and book reviews, Brignano has authored two books: “Richard Wright: An Introduction to the Man and His Works” and “Black Americans in Autobiography: An Annotated Bibliography of Autobiographies and Autobiographical Books Written Since the Civil War.”

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Book titles in the collection run the full gamut of professions and experiences, including “Mirror to America,” by renowned scholar and historian John Hope Franklin; the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson’s life story in “I Never Had It Made;” musical great “Ray Charles’ Brother Ray;” and famous poet Nikki Giovanni’s “Sacred Cows and Other Edibles.” The best way to view titles in the Brignano collection is through an advanced search, limit it to Beaver Library, and in the shelf location scroll down to “Beaver–African-American Autobiographies.” All titles are available via the “I want It” button in The CAT, the online catalog. For more information, contact Marty Goldberg, head librarian, Beaver Campus at or call 724- 773-3791.